Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica Lindeen clarified Tuesday that workers who will be helping citizens enroll in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) must follow the same state privacy laws as insurance companies.
Federal grants have been provided to hire ACA ‘navigators’, who will help guide those buying insurance on Montana’s new healthcare marketplace. Attorney General Tim Fox recently expressed concerns about federal privacy laws not being sufficient to protect Montanans from unsavory intrusion from these navigators. But he said Montana privacy laws do make up for it.
"I believe that Montana is taking the right tack to try to make up for the inadequacies of the federal governments rules and regulations," Fox said.
Lindeen said these navigators are required to receive special training on the specifics of Montana privacy law to get certified. Fingerprints are collected and they each must pass a background check. The work of these assistants is governed under Montana’s Insurance Information and Privacy Protection Act.
"If they do violate the law,” Lindeen said, “They could be fined up to $25,000 for each violation of that law."
Planned Parenthood of Montana, the Montana Primary Care Association, and the Montana Health Network are the three navigator grant recipients for Montana. There are also others who will be doing similar assistance work in smaller capacities. ‘Certified application counselors’ will usually work for hospitals or other medical providers on a part-time basis. Insurance agents are also allowed to take training to help people sign up for insurance.
Lindeen said these assistants will have access to the birthdays, social security numbers, and certain financial information of applicants, but notes that most navigators for organizations that have access to much of that information already.
Planned Parenthood of Montana Communications Director Lindsay Love said her organization already operates as a trusted healthcare provider and they understand the need to protect privacy.
"Many of our patients come to us for Reproductive Healthcare instead of their primary care provider just because they can trust us with their health information and their private information," Love said.
Montanans will be able to look at policies on the state’s online health insurance marketplace in October. Plans will go into effect in January.